Jens Stoltenberg warns U.S. allies will defend Ukraine if Russia invades

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Saturday warned that the United States and its allies are prepared to repel an invasion of eastern Ukraine by Russian military forces. “If the Russians want to go into Ukraine, there are NATO allies who will defend them,” Stoltenberg said during a telephone call with Ukrainian Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman. Stoltenberg also said that the alliance must remain ready to respond to any threats, despite a drawdown of troops from Eastern Europe in recent years. “Today our alliance is better prepared to face any new danger,” he said.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg warned against an attack on Ukraine and said NATO allies are ready to intervene, citing contacts with Russian officers to discuss reducing tensions and joint military exercises the alliance is planning for next year in response to Russian aggression.

In a statement, NATO spokesman Dan Lund said the alliance has held several meetings this year with Russian military officers to discuss cooperation, and that the alliance is ready to work with Moscow in planning joint exercises.

Stoltenberg’s comments, made during a conference call with reporters, come amid escalating tensions in Ukraine. In September, Russian armed forces successfully annexed Crimea after Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014.

While declaring Ukraine sovereign, Stoltenberg reiterated NATO’s vow to remain in eastern Europe to defend European allies from threats such as Russian aggression. Stoltenberg said his only goal was for Ukraine to be able to stand on its own two feet, but suggested that “Russia isn’t much interested in democracy and rule of law.” “I can imagine nothing worse than having our Eastern Europe, where NATO is located, being surrounded by Russian borders,” he said.

The remarks also come at a delicate time in the relationship between Russia and the United States. President Donald Trump has called for an end to the trans-Atlantic alliance and described Russian President Vladimir Putin as “very smart” and someone the United States could work with.

With a day of close presidential races, tensions escalated on Saturday following a phone call between Trump and Putin. In the call, Trump was critical of the Russian leader over his response to the poisoning of an ex-spy in Britain. Putin said he was “ashamed” over the situation and requested that there be a meeting with the U.S. president.

Read the full story at NBC News.


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